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Demystifying The Indian Domestic Airport

Demystifying The Indian Domestic Airport

April 07, 2012

Spotted: foxy air hostesses, “bijnissmen” and tourists in ali baba pants.

I love spending time in international airports. The rush of people from all sorts of places, heading to all sorts of places, is extremely stimulating. I’ll arrive a few hours before a flight if I can, just to drink a cappuccino, watch people and enjoy the atmosphere.

In India, I find myself in more domestic than international airports. Domestic airports are a little less polished than their international counterparts, and host a smaller variety of foreigners. Nonetheless, a huge number of visitors pass through domestic airports in India every day. Of these people, certain characters are ubiquitous:

Indian Businessmen.

Businessmen travelling for work make up a large percentage of people in a domestic airport at any given time. The sex ratio is skewed in favour of men compared to international airports, probably because of these guys. They range from shabbily to impeccably dressed, and could be working from their iPhones and munching on veg puffs from the CCD kiosk, or falling asleep in the waiting area with their heads lolling. Like Sonia Faleiro said, “no kalass.”

Too many staff.

At times, there are more staff people in domestic airports than those coming to travel. Maids in bathrooms hover to pass you a paper towel and male officials and clerks lean against counters and chat. The security women who scan female passengers aren’t busy enough, due to the aforementioned skewed sex ratio. They have names like Rinky Jadhav and Smita Devi Kumari, and their beauty is not complemented by their khaki uniforms and badges.

Foxy air hostesses.

Air hostesses in India range from unusually attractive to downright stunning. They wear tights over their nonexistent calves, short skirts and eyeliner like Bipasha Basu. Of particular interest are the IndiGo hostesses, who cover their real hair with cute bobbed wigs and wear red lipstick. In the bathroom, I witnessed one use a pencil to draw a fake beauty spot on her cheek. After touching up their makeup, they trounce as a pack through the airport, rolling luggage in tow, drawing attention from everyone in the vicinity.

Foreign tourists.

Tourists, especially budget travellers, are omnipresent in domestic airports. Most travel by plane only between major cities, and otherwise rely on trains and buses. These are generally young people on spiritual journeys. They’re often reading new age philosophy books and wearing ali baba pants and dreadlocks, less groomed even than the shabbily dressed businessmen who are at least wearing a proper pant-shirt-belt combination, shined shoes and combed, parted hair.

Bandra girls.

Instantly recognizable in airports all over India. Their shorts are from Palladium; their hairclips and blackberry covers from Linking Road. They carry sparkly floppy bags and flaunt studded flip flops, costume jewellery and a movie star attitude. The male Bandra girl equivalent is the Lokhandwala boy, usually wearing a toque, a scarf, or sunglasses, or all of the above.

Pigeons roosting.

In every domestic airport, there is a mandatory pigeon, crow or colony of pigeons/crows that has gotten stuck inside and is flying around fruitlessly looking for the exit.


Honeymooning couples are a trademark in domestic airports, and can be seen awkwardly taking photos of one another in front of the flight timing screens, kingfisher logos or with air hostesses, using cameras or mobile phones. They are adorable. Next time you visit a domestic airport in India, see if you can spot them all!

Photo credit: Rebecca Neubert 


  • Bronwyn
    10.04.12 12:54 PM
    @Mak: thanks!

    @keerthana: I agree, but they're also some of the most fun to watch.

    @afd: thank you! I loved all of those, will have to add a part 2 to this piece.

    @Atheist Indian: you're right, Mumbai airport features all of these characters. For full disclosure: I wrote this based on observations of Mumbai, Goa, Udaipur, Kerala and Varanasi airports.

    @Sonia: most welcome! Glad you liked it.
  • sonia
    09.04.12 10:05 PM
    Hey i really enjoyed this blog, especially of the Indian air hostess, i have always been fascinated with travelling and have frequently travelled to India througout my life. The descriptions of each person is very true, it truly makes me feel like i am back in Delhi looking at all the unique and diverse people. This is great, thanks for taking me back into a time i always admire and cherish!
  • Atheist Indian
    Atheist Indian
    09.04.12 07:18 PM
    @ Bronwyn
    I can see that and I don't begrudge that. The writing is humourous, I enjoyed the style. However, I doubt if the commentary would have been any less fun if you were 'demystifying the Mumbai airport'. You don't need a case study or exact data for that, either.
  • afd
    08.04.12 09:18 PM
    The obvious NRI(Not Required Indian) who complains about India not matching up with the country s/he lives in, the loud-mouthed-excited first time air traveller, the ever-complaining aam admi, the research analyst who knows everything about every airline and is quick to give prompt opinions to the one soul sitting next to him/her, the sad souls who sit patiently pretending not to notice anything as they fake themselves into reading a book they would not read otherwise, celebrities who try to go unnoticed and unnoticed people trying to get the attention like a celebrity... just a few more to the list.
  • keerthana
    08.04.12 05:04 PM
    of all the people, newlyweds are the most annoying :D
  • mak
    08.04.12 12:36 PM
    interesting observation. Very nice narartion
  • Bronwyn
    08.04.12 10:59 AM
    @Vishal: yes, it's definitely enough motivation to visit at least to receive someone!

    @AtheistIndian: this commentary wasn't meant to be a case study with exact data, but rather a fun commentary. India's people, cultures, colours, religions, song and dance, foods and many other aspects of society vary an incredible amount from East to West and North to South. You're right that I've made generalisations for the purpose of a light article.

    @Ashwini: thank you!

    @Harry: that's too bad. Maybe I am just lucky.
    07.04.12 11:33 PM
    Damn, I passed through 4 domestic airports last week and didn't see a single indigo airhostesses.
  • Ashwini
    07.04.12 11:05 PM
    Good observation :-)
  • Atheist Indian
    Atheist Indian
    07.04.12 11:03 AM
    *is concerned
  • Atheist Indian
    Atheist Indian
    07.04.12 11:03 AM
    As an airline pilot, I pretty much live in and around airports. While some of your points are spot-on for airports in India, there are other parts that sound a little two wide brushed. The country is way too diverse and multicultural for any city to give an idea of what 'India' or 'Indian' is like.

    If I were at the NSCBIA in Kolkata for example, the security checks would be done by someone named Bhoumik or Deb. There would be no Bandra girls or Lokhandawala boys to speak of. And as far as East or North East India is concern, International airports are a disgrace. The domestic airports are far better maintained and have better entertainment facilities.
  • Vishal
    07.04.12 09:22 AM
    Haven't travelled by air in quite sometime... But have been to the airport enough to agree on the Foxy Airhostesses bit... :)

    Is sort of motivation to receive someone :)

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